Friday, January 25, 2008
A week after filing for bankruptcy and selling his prized mastodon skull, the owner of the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum in Crosbyton says he should be able to stay in business.
“We think we’re going to be able to continue business as usual and get this thing straightened out,” Joe Taylor, the museum’s owner, said Thursday.
Two weeks ago, Taylor, 63, was facing the possible closure of his museum due to a legal battle that left him in a financial strait jacket. The sheriff’s department was on the verge of forcing Taylor to sell his museum, which he opened about a decade ago.
Taylor’s only hope was to make enough money by selling his mastodon skull to pay his legal bills and settlement costs.
The mastodon skull, the largest ever found, was sold for $191,200 last week at an auction in Dallas. Of that money, Taylor will get to keep about $128,000 – almost enough to pay the $136,000 he is required to pay in damages stemming from a disagreement with a former colleague over discovery rights to an Allosaurus skeleton.
“This whole thing should have never happened,” Taylor said.
The $128,000 from the sale was enough to call off the sheriff’s sale,
though Taylor still has a few details to work out and still owes the remaining $8,000.
The ordeal began after a landowner outside Dinosaur, Colo., contacted Taylor in 2001 and asked him to oversee a joint dig involving a group of aspiring home-schooled junior archaeologists. The team found the Allosaurus skeleton, but soon afterward a debate began over who should be credited with the discovery of the fossil.
In April 2004, the two sides agreed to a settlement, which ensured Taylor would be paid $124,843 for his share of the Allosaurus, which was sold to a third party for $200,000.
Part of the agreement also stated neither side could disparage the other without facing a fine.
Between June 2005 and January 2007, Taylor made at least 20 attempts to explain what happened at the Allosaurus dig near Dinosaur through various posts on the Internet, letters and e-mails.
A mediator later found each of Taylor’s public postings regarding the dig constituted a disparaging comment, which in the end cost Taylor more than $130,000 in damages owed to the group he had formerly settled with.